y0t0: Uriarra Road

Issued (in a digital format only) on the Fluid Radio sub-label Facture, Uriarra Road is the debut full-length by Charles Sage under the y0t0 name—Year Of The Ox, if you prefer—and the first full-length outing by Sage sans Hessien collaborator Tim Martin. Taking its inspiration from the 1988 Australian film In the Winter Dark, the album presents a narrative of sorts albeit in instrumental form, with the story centering on the decline of an outback town as the evacuation of industry threatens the survival of its aging populace. The album would appear to be less a literal soundtrack than a conceptual springboard for Sage's musings on the film's themes and content; certainly the despairing mood suggested by its story is captured not only in the brooding music that appears throughout but in track titles such as “Children Overboard” and “Requiem For Ida's Dream.” Using field recordings, processed guitars, and electronica treatments, Sage creates a long-form, multi-chaptered nightscape that fits snugly into the ambient-drone soundscaping genre, even if its focus on extremes of despair and hope makes it seem a rather more overtly emotional example of the form. In the opener “Black Ice,” a gentle piano motif is heard alongside loud crackle emanating from a layer of frozen, coal-black earth, the combination a foreshadowing of light-dark contrasts that will surface in some of the album's subsequent material. A subtle undercurrent of disturbance creeps into the otherwise peaceful and dreamlike “Ida's Dream,” while gentle guitar strums add an air of hopefulness to “Requiem For Ida's Dream” and “2:55am” conjures a hazy ambiance appropriate to the time indicated.

Sage brings an inspired sequencing concept to the recording by alternating his own originals with remixes by Spheruleus, Jasper TX, Field Rotation, Seaworthy, Relmic Statute, Downliners Sekt, and Manchester duo Ghosting Season (aka Worriedaboutsatan). It's not entirely clear whether the guests are remixing a common track called “Uriarra Road” (not included as one of Sage's own originals, by the way), drawing upon the album material as a whole to create their tracks, or contributing original pieces. Regardless, they collectively perpetuate the album's overall dark tone, and follow the lead established by Spheruleus (Harry Towell), whose version is a haunted evocation of dramatic sweep filled with shuddering tones and field recording sounds—scrapes and clanks, vehicles motoring down the highway—taken from the urban-industrial environment. Though still brooding, the Field Rotation version is a slightly more stripped-down ambient-drone affair that Christoph Berg peppers with the same field recording sounds heard in the Spheruleus treatment. Tremolo-laden figures and dense textural buildups dominate the slow-motion meditation by Jasper TX (Dag Rosenqvist), while traffic noises and tremolo effects are prominently heard during David Horner's Relmic Statute version, in addition to clicking beats—a sound heard rarely on this collection, though Gavin Miller and Tom Ragsdale also animate their Ghosting Season version with a muffled 4/4 pulse. True to form for Fluid Radio, the presentation of the release reflects an attention to detail that lifts it above the norm, with the music complemented by a short film for one track by Antonymes, a PDF artwork booklet, and individual artwork for each track. Think of Uriarra Road as sixty-eight-minutes and fourteen tracks of brooding, cinematic soundscaping tailor-made for the night's darkest moments.

September 2011